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Cryptic games "infinitely better" for having gone free-to-play

Champions Online and Star Trek Online have been much improved by their transition to free-to-play, Neverwinter lead producer Andy Velasquez has said.

Speaking to GameInformer, the Cryptic Studios staffer said the amount of data available to free-to-play developers is a treasure which ultimately benefits end game design.

"We found again going back to that data side of things, what makes successful free-to-play monetization is perfectly aligned with what makes a game that your users are going to like. You actually look at the data and you have to evaluate it: 'What are my players looking to do right now, what are they looking to buy, what could they want?'" he said.

"It’s an interesting perspective because normally as developers you go into your think tank and think about what you want to make and all these cool things in your mind, so I think our games that have been free-to-play have gotten infinitely better because of their transition to free-to-play."

Cryptic Studios has its own experiences with Champions Online and Star Trek Online to call on, but since its acquisition by Perfect World, it's even better positioned to try and get free-to-play exactly right.

"We’re published by Perfect World, which is one of the premier free-to-play MMO publishers in the west, so we get to tap into obscene amounts of data whenever we need to make a decision like, how many day-one or month-one items do I want to have and at what type and what category?" Velasquez noted.

"Traditionally a studio would just have to take their best guess and do some research but I actually get to look at hard data and see what sells in these other games, what is palatable for the western market, how are we packaging things that make it make sense? I think we’re approaching it very cautiously but with a lot of backing that will make it pretty successful."

Cryptic's next game is Neverwinter, an action MMORPG due in 2013 which will be free-to-play and micro-transaction supported. The developer is adamant that all content will be available for free, with item boosts and similar available for those who want to pony up.

"It’s not like you can just go to the store and buy a level 30 sword as a level 10 character. So we haven’t talked too much in terms of the details yet but that’s our high level approach," Velasquez added.

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